Wharfedale 34

Lydney 0

A TIDAL wave must have exploded along the banks of the Severn estuary such was the size of the black and white exodus to the Dales, punctuating the local dialect with their own spectacular vernacular redolent with reverberant rusticana writes Ian Douglass.

On paper the result may have seemed like a foregone conclusion, Lydney making a long end of season journey occupying a comfortable lower table position whilst Wharfedale were swinging along 'Fortress Avenue' with a desire to achieve their highest ever league position.

However, the visitors had won twice before at Threshfield, had beaten Birmingham on their own ground and can never be taken for granted. They are always stubborn and more than little irascible.

The first half was almost continuous Wharfedale pressure, the only disappointment being that the points haul fell short of the home crowd's desire for an end of season feast.

Lack of plunder was due to redoubtable defence, occasionally desperate and frequently based upon inserting themselves into rucks and mauls from unconventional directions.

Wharfedale showed good individual skills but eagerness was often in greater abundance than calm execution.

Jonathan Davies was ever willing to join the line while John Lawn, later to be partially restricted by a neck injury, was making merry round the fringes and was almost over when stealing away from a lineout.

The first score came from a driving maul sparked by David Lister's soaring catch. It was Lister who was eventually break free and race 20 yards to score.

Adam Mounsey added the conversion but was uncharacteristically to miss two penalty chances.

Winger Craig Ecclestone, recalled to the first team, saw plenty of action and twice came close to scoring.

Lydney did finally get into the Greens' half after 20 minutes and slick ball provided an overlap which was scotched by Mounsey's enveloping tackle.

Soon the siege of Lydney resumed, Heseltine was darting, short passes, reverse passes and floating passes were tried but still no return.

Lineout dominance provided guaranteed possession and a quick penalty by Graham Smith put Andy Hodgson away for a try which Mounsey converted to make it 14-0 at the interval.

Ecclestone's firm tackle brought an end to a run from his opposite number to mark the start of the second half before Wharfedale settled back on the attack.

Charlie Vyvyan delighted in stripping possession from any Lydney forward who came within his embrace and Neil Heseltine revelled in some close quarter runs - yet decisive openings were still rare.

However, the crowd were to see the scintillating finale which they craved.

The prologue was a regal, rousing romp by Hedley Verity, whose work throughout was exemplary - the 50-50 ball is always his.

It was Ecclestone who was to claim the first of four second half tries. It started with a pack move as Craig Ingram drove to the posts and the ball was recycled for Russ Buckroyd to put the winger over.

From the kick off Hodgson went on another run, the pack piled in for Verity to claim the touchdown.

Gaps began to appear in the Lydney defence and Hodgson was the man to expose them as he dived over under the posts for his second try.

There was a poignant scene as big Charlie Vyvyan was replaced by young Tony Jackson. The legendary No 8 was making his last league appearance for the Greens to be replaced by a young player who shows many of the credentials which will be needed to replace such a giant. The crowd showed their appreciation of an arch exponent of his craft, an affable ambassador for his sport and one of the finest back row forwards of his generation.

The scene complete, it was back to business and Ecclestone completed another break from Graham Smith and Hodgson for his second try.

Lydney, defiant to the end, embarked on a final foray but this was not to be their day. A promising opportunity came to an end courtesy of a Hodgson tackle.

So the end came down on a memorable season. Wharfedale finished third in the table and kept their supporters dreaming of promotion into the elite of the top two leagues.

Hedley Verity, Russ Buckroyd and David Lister have played in all 26 league games.

Andy Hodgson's two tries took his season's total to 19, four behind the league's top try scorer Mark Kirby from Otley.

And, for the second season running, a Wharfedale player looks likely to win the leading points scorer award. Last year it was David Pears, this year it should be Adam Mounsey with 274 - unless Lydney's Lee Osborne scores 20 points in his side's last game against Birmingham tomorrow.

Wharfedale: Davies; Mounsey, Hodgson, Whitfield, Eccleston; Heseltine Smith; Ingram, Lawn, Dickinson (Lancaster), Lister, Evans, Buckroyd (Allen), Verity, Vyvyan (Jackson).

Lydney: Johnson; Hill, Vine, Alford, Lesley; Osborne, Davis; Price, Nelmes, Harris; Roberts, Bashford, Evans, Wintle, McBride.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.